HOUSTON — While smoke from the Canadian wildfires remained hundreds of miles away, Houston was under an air quality alert Thursday.
The state warned that ozone levels were at unhealthy levels for sensitive groups. Advocates warn that this is happening more and more frequently.
Air Alliance Houston said there have already been 15 high ozone days in 2023, as of June 8, an increase from previous years.
Ozone is a combination of air pollution, heat and sunlight. Houston's summer is just starting to kick off.
Despite air quality being rated by the EPA as good early in the day, Houston was forecasted to hit another high ozone day by the time it was over, putting the city on track to surpass last year's total number of high ozone days.
2022 saw some of the most high ozone days in the last seven years.
The head of Air Alliance Houston said the city's port, refineries and vehicles are causing most of the pollution here.
“It can make it difficult to breathe," said Jennifer Hadayia, the executive director of Air Alliance Houston. "Some people report getting headaches, scratchy throat, but it can also aggravate severe conditions for people. Somebody with asthma, somebody with COPD, somebody with a heart condition.”
Dr. Anisha Arora is a pulmonologist with Memorial Hermann. She said kids, older adults and people with bad allergies should use caution on high ozone days.
“Those I think who have no serious lung condition shouldn’t be hesitant to be outside," she said. "I would say early morning, early evening should be safe, and also judge how you feel.”
Arora said if you do suffer from lung conditions, now's a good time to refill your inhaler if you're running low on meds. She also recommends checking on older family members or neighbors who may not have the resources they need.